Tom Leighton

Tom Leighton

Professor of Applied Mathematics

Phone: (617) 253-3662

Office: 2-444, 32-G594


Theoretical Computer Science, Combinatorics


Tom Leighton is a Professor of Applied Mathematics and a member of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) at MIT (currently on leave). In 1998, he co-founded Akamai Technologies, where he is currently the CEO and a member of the Board of Directors.

Professor Leighton is a preeminent authority on algorithms for network applications, and has published over 100 papers on algorithms, cryptography, parallel architectures, distributed computing, combinatorial optimization, and graph theory. He also holds numerous patents involving content delivery, Internet protocols, algorithms for networks, cryptography, and digital rights management.

He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Professor Leighton has received numerous honors for his pioneering work on content delivery, including induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2017, the Marconi Prize in 2018, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) John von Neumann Medal in 2023.

Other distinctions include the IEEE Babbage Award, the MIT Entrepreneurship Award, the MIT Irwin Sizer Award, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Special Interest Group on Algorithms and Computation Theory (SIGACT) Distinguished Service Prize, induction into the Massachusetts Innovation & Technology Exchange (MITX) Innovators Hall of Fame, being named as one of the Ten Top Technology Innovators by U.S. News and World Report, Test of Time Awards from Research in Computational Molecular Biology (RECOMB) and the IEEE Symposium on Foundations of Computer Science (FOCS), and being named a Fellow of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics and of ACM.

Professor Leighton has served on numerous governmental, industrial and academic committees. He chaired the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee on Cyber Security from 2003-2005. He has also served on the editorial boards of Networks- An International Journal, EATCS Monographs in Theoretical Computer Science, Internet Mathematics, ACM Transactions on Algorithms, Combinatorica, Journal of Algorithms, SlAM Monographs on Discrete Mathematics and Applications, Algorithmica, SIAM Journal on Computing, SlAM Journal of Discrete Mathematics, and was the editor-in-chief of the Journal of the ACM. He is also a former two-term chair of the 2,000-member Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) Special Interest Group on Algorithms and Complexity Theory (SIGACT).

Working with his group at MIT in the mid-1990s, Dr. Leighton discovered a solution to freeing up web congestion using applied mathematics and distributed computing. Akamai used this technology to create the world’s largest distributed computing platform, which today delivers and secures tens of millions of requests per second to billions of users around the world.

Under Dr. Leighton’s leadership, Akamai has evolved from its origins as a content delivery network (CDN) into the world’s most distributed cloud platform, with leading solutions for content delivery, cybersecurity, and cloud computing. During his time as CEO, Akamai’s revenue has more than doubled, growing from less than $1.4 billion in 2012 to more than $3.6 billion in 2022, while earnings per share nearly tripled. Over the same period, annual revenue from Akamai’s security business has grown from less than $25 million to more than $1.5 billion.

Dr. Leighton has been personally committed to increasing the pipeline of students pursuing STEM careers for over 30 years, first as a mathematics professor at MIT and now through his leadership at Akamai. He is a strong supporter of the Akamai Foundation, which promotes mathematics education, and he oversaw the creation of the Akamai Technical Academy, an innovative program aimed at training diverse non-technical professionals for technical careers. He also supports numerous charitable organizations dedicated to strengthening STEM education and opportunities for K-12 students, including The Center for Excellence in Education, Society for Science (producer of the Regeneron Science Talent Search and Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair), The Mathematical Association of America (sponsor of the Math Olympiad), the Math Competition for Girls, and Girls Who Code.

Professor Leighton received his B.S.E. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from Princeton in 1978, and his Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics from MIT in 1981. He joined the MIT Mathematics faculty in 1982, and became a Professor in 1989.